If you’re like most people, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term orthodontics is that of a teenager wearing bulky metal braces. While this is a persistent stereotype, orthodontic treatment can actually benefit patients of all ages, including children! Early treatment allows trained orthodontists to diagnose, treat, and prevent oral health issues, which is why your child should see an orthodontist by age 7. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontics even recommends it!
If you’re a parent, you may be somewhat nervous about pursuing orthodontic treatment this young. Children at this age are still developing and may have quite a few baby teeth left. However, the entire purpose of early orthodontic examinations is to allow our trained orthodontists to catch and address any issues before they have the opportunity to develop into something more serious. This gives your child the best opportunity to have a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Here at Smith & Heymann Orthodontics, we believe that preventative care is important for long term health. Our doctors treat a number of young patients and we’ve been able to experience first-hand how beginning treatment at the optimal time can make a big difference in their oral health. If you have a child that’s around the age of seven who’s ready for their first orthodontic appointment, our team would love to meet you and take a look at their dental development. During this initial consultation, your doctor will be looking for a number of issues to determine if orthodontic treatment is recommended, be it now or in the future. Keep reading below to learn more about why your child should see an orthodontist by age seven!
Tooth loss and eruption
Many people underestimate the true importance of baby teeth since they all eventually fall out anyway. However, as the placeholders for permanent teeth, where they’re positioned and when they come in matters much more than you might think! Primary teeth also tend to fall out in a fairly particular order, so any significant deviation from this pattern may indicate deeper developmental issues that require attention from your orthodontist.
By the age of seven, children should have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. If your child has more or less than this, it could indicate an issue with missing, crowded, or extra teeth. In some cases, your orthodontist may choose to remove a primary tooth early or maintain a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely in order to prevent bigger problems later in life.
Crowding and spacing
The orthodontists at Smith & Heymann are trained to tell early in a child’s life if they’re already experiencing issues with excessive spacing or crowding of their teeth, or if those issues are likely to develop later on. Spacing issues can show up when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or with teeth that are too small or spaced apart. If crowding is an issue, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.
Crooked teeth are harder to keep clean than straight teeth, which can lead to bacteria and plaque buildup. They’re also more susceptible to uneven wear and tear over time. If misaligned teeth are left untreated for a long enough period of time, it can eventually affect both the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue. While it’s true that teeth can be successfully shifted at any age, correcting oral issues at a young age can help to prevent some of the excessive wear and tear, giving your child a head start on a healthier smile.
Overbite (or protrusive front teeth)
Front teeth that are obviously protrusive are more than just a cosmetic concern. Overbite can increase the risk of injury to your child’s permanent teeth and even cause speech issues. While we sometimes have to wait until a child’s mouth is more developed before permanently correcting an overbite, there are still many ways we can help reduce the risk of a traumatic injury. This often gives children a confidence boost, too!
Underbites can be caused by problems with either the teeth or the jaws. The most difficult scenario involves the lower jaw growing too far forward as it develops. In these cases we’ll often need to wait until the child is closer to being done growing to start their orthodontic treatment, usually during the teenage years.
Even if you have a waiting period involved in resolving an underbite, early treatment can still be beneficial in order to avoid bite-shifting and damage to the permanent front teeth. At Smith & Heymann Orthodontics, we have various methods we can utilize to help normalize the bite as early as possible. This includes a process called “jumping the bite,” where we use braces or other appliances to get a start on a younger child’s underbite before completing the correction in the teenage years. As an added benefit, underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of 7-10 years old are much less likely to need corrective jaw surgery once they get older!
A posterior crossbite can cause crowding and may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other to fit the top and bottom teeth together. When our doctors are able to expand the upper jaw in early childhood, we’re able to reduce crowding and create adequate space for the front teeth to come through uninterrupted. Expansion can also eliminate any shifting that may occur due to a constricted upper jaw.
In some cases, a narrow upper jaw can be associated with a narrow nasal passage and expansion can help improve the breathing and nasal airflow for these patients as they continue to grow.
Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites
These are bite problems that occur vertically and can usually be spotted by the time your child is ready for their initial orthodontic consultation. In the case of bites that are too deep, the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when biting, which may indicate a small lower jaw. In the case of open bites, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough, which may be a sign that there is a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems. If this is the case, our team will be happy to work together with you and your child to eliminate damaging oral habits early on! This will promote healthy dental development for your child!
Give your child their best smile with an early orthodontic evaluation from Smith & Heymann Orthodontics!
Early orthodontic examinations are a building block in helping your child achieve a healthy smile that will last a lifetime! As a child gets older, the growth of their jaw bone begins to slow, eventually stopping altogether. Any orthodontic treatment that takes place after this point will often last longer and be more invasive. Receiving any necessary orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent problematic bite patterns from getting worse or damaging the developing teeth. In turn, this can reduce the need for extensive orthodontic treatment as an adult! Interception treatment can also make comprehensive treatment faster and more efficient.
Here at Smith & Heymann Orthodontics, your child’s smile is always a priority! Thanks to our friendly, welcoming, and stress-free environment you’ll both feel like family as soon as you walk in the door. Our experienced team is dedicated to providing the highest quality orthodontic care for patients of all ages in Durham, Mebane, Roxboro, Chapel Hill, and the surrounding communities. If your child is ready for their very first orthodontic visit, contact our office today and schedule a FREE consultation. This is the perfect time to take the first step towards a healthy, happy smile for your child.